The 38-year-old won his 108th Northern Ireland cap on Monday night when his side secured second spot in Group C with a 2-0 win over Czech Republic, equalling legendary England World Cup-winning skipper Bobby Moore’s record.
The result at Windsor Park against Czech Republic continues a remarkable run for Edinburgh-based Michael O’Neill’s side.
Northern Ireland have conceded only two goals in their qualification campaign to date. As well as a fifth successive competitive win they racked up a fifth clean sheet on Monday. Former Hamilton Accies keeper Michael McGovern has not conceded a goal for more than ten hours.
Hughes has been at the heart of that run en route to drawing level with Moore and he will surpass the late England defender’s total if he plays against Germany at Windsor Park next month. Northern Ireland face Norway away four days later.
Northern Ireland assistant boss Austin MacPhee , who also works with Hughes at Hearts, said: “Aaron slotted in beside Jonny Evans, recently valued at over £25 million, and even aged 38 doesn’t look out of place – they formed a magnificent partnership.
“Sometimes defenders tend to play deeper when they get older, but Aaron still plays on the front foot at 38. He is not yet doing a Franco Baresi or a Willie Miller and retreating further to sweeper.
“He can still do all aspects of defending at his age. It’s a
tribute to how well he looks after himself.”
Providing he remains fit Hughes is likely to feature in both Northern Ireland games next month as O’Neill’s side seek to confirm a play-off spot. English Premier League pair Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart missed the double header with San Marino and Czech Republic and the
centre-halves could be struggling to regain fitness in four weeks.
Reflecting on picking up his 108th cap one month before the 20th anniversary of his first ever senior international call-up, Hughes said: “When you put it like that it sounds crazy, doesn’t it. It’s making me feel a wee bit old! I’m just so happy to be involved in it.”
Hughes is in line to make only his third appearance of the season for Hearts against Aberdeen at BT Murrayfield this weekend.